In 1621, Jan Pieterszoon Coen “set out to obliterate Bandanese society, with as many as 15,000 islanders slaughtered, enslaved or shipped into exile, and the survivors hiding in the mountains,” writes Ian Burnet. “The Dutch blockaded their mountain hideouts, where most died of hunger. Coen described the obstinacy of these people as so great that they would rather all die together in misery than surrender to his men.”

With no Bandanese left to work on the plantations, the Dutch brought in slaves and prisoners and created the perkenierstelsel, dividing the plantations among Dutch perkeniers who would manage them and sell the nutmeg they yielded to the company at a fixed price.

According to H. W. Ponder: “The coming of the perkeniers marked the opening of a new chapter in Banda’s history, as eventful in its way as the one before it, though less blood-stained. And in the fullness of time these perkeniers, the autocratic nutmeg princes who lived like Oriental rajas, floored their palaces with priceless marble, and lighted their long cigars with bank notes, were destined to pass from the scene as finally and completely as the dispossessed rightful owners of their rich domains; paying the penalty, perhaps, by some inexorable law of compensation, for the sins of those who set their forefathers on these ill-gotten lands.”


Read more in the The Banda Islands: Hidden Histories and Miracles of Nature. To order a copy, email

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The Banda Islands is also currently available in Indonesia at Periplus nationwide, at Aksara and Bartele Gallery in Jakarta, and at Ganesha in Bali.